In the last month alone, we have learned of the capture, either dead or alive, of three sought after fugitives. Osama bin Laden, the ringleader behind Al-Qaeda, shot dead in his home in Pakistan. Ratko Mladic, the Serbian general responsible for the massacre of 8,000 Muslims, arrested in Serbia. And Bernard Munyagishari, the Hutu leader considered to be the mastermind of the Rwandan genocide which resulted in the death of 800,000 people, arrested in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Responsible for the slaughter of thousands, these individuals represent how vile and ugly humanity can be. They have also shown the world that such evil is not confined to one culture, faith, race, or even continent. Nor is it alone.
As hard as it is for me to understand the workings of man who can so calmly order the deaths of thousands, it’s even harder for me to understand the individuals that choose to carry out those orders. These followers have willingly slit the throats of children, raped villages of women, and sacrificed their own lives to fulfill these men’s visions.
What is it about these men that inspire these individuals to follow? At what point does the concept of wrong and right stop working? Is it the desperate need to survive? To belong? Is it that they don’t know any better? Because even the most uneducated, unaware person out there would think twice before committing murder or rape. Wouldn’t they? And after it’s all over, do they live with what they’ve done? Have they come to peace with it? Or does it haunt them like it haunts the rest of the world?
And the rationalization of such evil does not seem to end in the time of conflict itself. Thousands came out in Belgrade this weekend, hailing Mladic as a national hero. There have been suicide bombings in northern Pakistan in retaliation to bin Laden’s death. These men, even after being indicted for mass murder by the international community, continue to enjoy the support of thousands. How? Why?
Yes, we should put Mladic and Munyagishari on trial for their crimes, but let’s get those who fought for them to testify as well. Rather than just confirm to the world that evil exists, let’s figure out how evil seduces those around it, creating foot soldiers for its cause. I want to hear from them how they justified the atrocities they were committing. Understanding what creates a following for these men is the only way we can put a stop to it happening again for those that might want to take their place. And there’s no doubt that there are people out there willing to take their place.
As they say, there’s strength in numbers. Let’s just make sure that men like these no longer have numbers on their side.